Plan to cut Pa. welfare budget worries auditor general

    Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner has warned against misspending in the state’s Department of Public Welfare for years. But the Democrat has concerns about the House Republicans’ plan to cut $470 million from the department’s budget.

    The budget passed by the House last month slightly increases DPW spending over last year’s levels, but trims nearly $500 million from Gov. Tom Corbett’s initial plan. The cut was based on a 4-percent error rate in department spending.

    Even though Wagner’s audits have pointed to a double-digit mistake rate, he said setting a monetary goal for savings isn’t the right approach. “We think there’s some good ideas for annual, sustainable savings. However, when it comes to welfare you just can’t cut the budget,” he said. “You have to make administrative changes in how the programs operate.”

    Wagner’s worried a simple financial savings goal could have unintended consequences. “During this entire discussion, we have never suggested that one single person who deserves to be part of that program be knocked off that program. We simply want the programs to run more efficiently. And they have not been run efficiently in recent years,” he said.

    Wagner insisted he still “commends” the House GOP budget, but he urged lawmakers to work with the Corbett Administration to identify specific waste and abuse. DPW Secretary Gary Alexander has expressed doubt about finding $470 million in savings.

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